Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Saint Etienne: Words and Music by Saint Etienne [Heavenly/Universal, 2012]
It's not like they ever disappeared--in Britain they've been minor fixtures, regularly releasing albums that all sounded markedly inferior to 1993's So Tough from here. There's even a best-of no Stateside bizzer ever touched. But they clearly regard their first proper album since 2006's Tales From Turnpike House as some kind of recapitulation or theme statement--a looking back that's warmly affectionate but too cool to melt into nostalgia. Announcing her intentions with a striking half-spoken reminiscence of a fandom that began at 10, Sarah Cracknell devotes most of these songs to the young clubbers and music lovers she was and knew. But at times you suspect her subjects and personas are older, still caught up in the same dreams. And the subject of "Twenty Five Years" is the time in front of her. Her male partners Bob Stanley and Peter Wiggs provide reliable disco-inflected pop or vice versa that the remixers on the optional bonus disc trick up with more wit and fidelity than we who avoid remixes sagely expect. A-